“Where is sadness?”
“To the right of pain.”
For the past three years, our small group has used a “feelings card” to help process the complexities of life – career, marriage, parenting…and a pandemic. The card lists eight primary emotions. To the right of each of those primary emotions are subcategories that may be more familiar. For example, when I feel “overwhelmed,” I’ll find it listed on the card to the right of “fear.” Because my overwhelmed feeling is actually rooted in the fear of failing, the fear of disappointing others, the fear of being out-of-control, etc.
A few months ago I shared our group’s feelings card on Instagram. It prompted a podcast listener to send me a direct message with the question, “Where is sadness?” After reading my response (“to the right of pain”), she vulnerably told me, “With the weightiness of moving and trying to set-up house in a new place and comfort being taken away in a pandemic, I’ve been left with a heavy feeling and am just really sad. It helps to have the word ‘pain’.”
Not only does it help to know what to call our feelings, isn’t it wonderful that we have a Savior, Jesus, who can relate to our pain? He is familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3). In fact, being made in God’s image, we were designed to have emotions. Throughout the Psalms, David perfected the art of a painful lament. Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet,” after witnessing Jerusalem’s destruction, exclaimed, “Why is my pain unending?” (Jeremiah 15:18).
Thankfully our emotions are never too much for God. The key is to identify and label the emotions, process them in community and bring them to God in prayer. Otherwise, the emotions start bossing us around. Fear squeezes out faith. Pain paralyzes progress. Anger disrupts connection.
It’s valuable to name the losses in the last year. To acknowledge the ‘pain’ and be kinder with how we respond. When I broke my foot years ago, I wore a boot and used crutches, allowing my foot to rest and heal. Similarly we need to find ways to rest and heal emotionally and give ourselves permission to do so, recognizing “Rest is restorative, which means it’s productive.” (Dr. Sandra Dalton from Ep 209 of the Don’t Mom Alone Podcast).
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Yeah right, Heather, I’d love to rest. Rest sounds dreamy. But it’s not happening any time soon.” What if the kind of rest you need isn’t a time or space rest but resting your expectations? Resting the expectations to stay on top of everything. Resting the expectations to navigate new situations well. Resting the expectations to perform at the same level you did in 2019. Exchanging your expectations for productivity with Jesus’ expectations for dependency.
This past year, particularly, I’ve found value in bringing my emotions to God. Sharing the pain of my losses with community. And replacing my burdensome expectations with the easier and lighter ones Christ provides. Ultimately, finding supernatural rest for my weary soul.
Jesus invites you to do the same, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Heather MacFadyen has been married to her husband since the turn of the century (sounds more impressive than it is). The MacFadyen's are new to TCA this year and have four boys, the oldest of which, Quade, is a freshman at TCA. Heather hosts the "Don't Mom Alone Podcast" weekly interviewing fellow journeyers and experts on various motherhood topics. Her heart is for moms to know God's great delight over them, how He sees the unseen eternal work they do every day. And through mentorship, friendship and discipleship to remind gals that they “Don’t Mom Alone”.